Flemish Radio Choir / Hervé Niquet

08/04/2018 - Gounod Gothic

The composer of numerous Romantic masses with orchestra, Gounod also took a passionate interest in choral transcription and the musical styles of the past, at the very time when Viollet-le-Duc was restoring and reinterpreting the Gothic architecture of the churches and cathedrals of France. He therefore focused his attention in turn on Bach, Palestrina, Handel, Arcadelt, Arbeau and Mozart, adapting for chorus the ‘March of the Priests’ from Die Zauberflöte (hummed wordlessly) and the celebrated Ave verum corpus. This contact with the past enabled him to hone his skills in harmony and Renaissance counterpoint. On his way back from the Villa Medici, he composed in Vienna, in 1843, a Vocal Mass in the Palestrinian style which has never been published or revised since its first performance. Punctuated by chorales after the manner of Johann Sebastian Bach, the work goes far beyond mere pastiche: it traverses the various aesthetics of the past while enriching them with the vibrant harmonies of the Romantic era. And this ardent, impassioned Romanticism recurs in even stronger form in Les Sept Paroles de Notre Seigneur JĂ©sus-Christ sur la Croix (The Seven Last Words of Christ on the Cross, 1855), whose subject, at once gloomy and mystical, was an ideal match for the ambiguous personality of Gounod’s music, torn between religious fervour and sensuality.

Charles GOUNOD:
Vocal Mass a cappella
Les Sept Paroles du Christ sur la croix
Transcriptions of Bach, Palestrina, Mozart, etc.